Belk's ESB
Anderson Valley Brewing Company

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Bitter - English Extra Special / Strong Bitter (ESB)
Ranked #52
Ranked #27,395
3.8 | pDev: 11.84%
Anderson Valley Brewing Company
California, United States
Very Good
Notes: Inspired by the classic “Bitters” from Great Britain, our Belk’s ESB is an innovative take on the style. With a deep, golden hue and big malty foundation, the spicy, herbal hop aromas and crisp, bitter bite give a West Coast flair to this classic recipe.

Formerly Boont ESB.
Reviews: 356 | Ratings: 545 | Log in to view all ratings and sort
Photo of HoppingMadMonk
HoppingMadMonk from New Jersey

3.82/5  rDev +0.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

Orange yellow color.aroma is slightly floral and hops. A really well crafted beer that replicated the style well. Very well balanced as the bitterness didn't overpower but complimented the other aspects of this brew. I'm not a fan of bitter beer but this one was so well made and balanced that is was very enjoyable

Apr 28, 2017
Photo of rodbeermunch
rodbeermunch from Nevada

3.58/5  rDev -5.8%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.25 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.5

Copper color, looks pretty, 3/5" white head. Aroma hit the bitter C hop and noble notes. Enjoyable.

Taste, one of my favorite esb's actually. More bitter than most. But not grating. Good tea biscuit pale malt usage. Crushing these is pretty nice. Hides the alcohol really well, its like an imperialized version of traditional esb, without going overboard. There wasn't too much difference between this and a lot of the uber bitter 90s ipas.

Jul 01, 2016
Photo of kitch
kitch from Hong Kong

3.46/5  rDev -8.9%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

A 12 fl oz bottle with no visible best by or bottled date and poured into a pint glass.

Appearance: Poured a slightly hazy orangey copper colour with a one finger off white head that dissipates within a minute leaving some stringy lacing.

Aroma: A bit weak but what little I do get is caramel malts, some fruitiness like plum, pear, apple sauce and orange plus hints of mineral notes.

Taste: Strong caramel sweetness beginning and citrus grapefruit bitterness finish with hints of pine, grass and pepper in between.

Mouthfeel: Medium bodied with low carbonation and dry finish.

Overall: This was decent but nothing special. I think I may prefer it more if it had a little less of the caramel sweetness.

Aug 21, 2015
Photo of Brutaltruth
Brutaltruth from Ohio

3.25/5  rDev -14.5%

Ale pours a nice yellow amber hue with frothy white head and fantastic lacing. Nose of light
earthy/floral hops and light sweet malts. Taste is much like the nose with sweet malts up front
and light bittering hops to the rear with light alcoholic warmth coming through on the finish.
Very nice, but not as well balanced as most English ales of the same style. Almost imperial for
the style.

Aug 14, 2014
Photo of SaltofOH
SaltofOH from Ohio

2.83/5  rDev -25.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.25 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 2.75 | overall: 2.5

Last week I was excited to be the second review for this beer; now there are more than 500, and they go back some time. Damn you re-branding! Bottle from a mix and match sixer. No freshness dating.

Appearance: Pours a hazy ornageish-brown with a 1/2" light tan head. Very foamy. Very little visible carbonation. Lacing goes all the way down as I drink. The best lacing I have seen on a beer in a long while.

Aroma: Something is weird here. Yeast fruitiness and sweet malt. Touch of earthy hops.

Taste: Dry arrival, full-flavored, malty bitterness across mid palate then POW big bittering hop finish. Cloying at the end of the glass.

Mouthfeel: Midweight with significant slickness.

Overall: This is not an ESB. This is an IPA without aroma hops. I cannot imagine drinking more than one of these. Out of balance.

Jun 23, 2014
Photo of bubseymour
bubseymour from Maryland

4.25/5  rDev +11.8%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Bought this one as a single sampler. Surprised I live in Maryland and am the first one to write a review of this California brewers beer on Beer Advocate.

A nice clear copper beer with frothy 2 finger head and great retention. Smells great of caramel and malt. The taste is very "complex" (darn there it is). If you read the back of the bottle it discusses lilacs, white pepper, Bartlett pears blueberry honey and roses. Well I can taste some white pepper, honey and a crisp hop finish. It's a good beer and has a lot going on but the overall taste is, well, a little weird.

For an ESB at 6.8% its a little more to work through than most lighter ABV ESB's but its well crafted and very experimental. Tastes like something DFH would put out. That is a compliment.

Overall, I recommend everyone to sample this. Others may really like it. I enjoyed it but probably won't buy too often due to competition.

Apr 29, 2014
Photo of SmashPants
SmashPants from Australia

2.52/5  rDev -33.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 2.75 | taste: 2.25 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 2.5

Bottle: 355mL blue can with an antlered bear (assumedly the Anderson mascot).

Appearance: pours a hazy orange amber with a thin white head that drops pretty quickly, leaving some lace.

Aroma: some herbal and grass hops with unrecognisable malts, with wet cardboard and some pine. Not the greatest aroma ever. I checked the best before, and it's still in date. Either it has suffered light strike (unlikely as it is a brown bottle) or this is a real ordinary beer.

Taste: again some malt and grassy hops - certainly nothing special. Also very flat in flavour - if anything, I would call this beer quite boring.

Aftertaste: a bit more hop bitterness comes through on the finish, but this is still one very disappointing brew.

Mouth feel: a light- to-moderate body with mild carbonation. A bit lacking.

Overall: this is the second beer I have had from Anderson Valley (the first being their Amber Ale), and neither are even a decent beer, let alone worth the top-end boutique price. One brewery to scratch off the list.

Apr 22, 2014
Photo of Dsimenson
Dsimenson from California

3.99/5  rDev +5%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poured from a bottle into a New Belgium goblet. Thin head but nice lacing. Coppery amber color, and hazy. Aroma is citrus and malt. I don't quite get the floral notes in aroma and flavor thAt are advertised on the label. The flavor is delightfully bitter, grapefruit with pine and malt. Mouthfeel is medium, with a fair amount if carbonation. Overall this is a very good to outstanding bitter ale, and one of my favorite styles. This brewery makes several styles that I really like.

Mar 20, 2014
Photo of WoodBrew
WoodBrew from Ohio

3.74/5  rDev -1.6%
look: 4.25 | smell: 3.25 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Anderson Valley still remains one sneaky brewery....they are producing some good stuff. The ESB....while not my favorite style is quite taste. The beer poured a slightly hazy copper with 1/2 finger thick head that is leaving a lace. The scent is slightly sweet with bitter hops present. The taste is bitter at the front then smooths with a sweet malt. The mouthfeel is lighter in body with good carbonation. Overall this is a decent beer and glad I tried it.

Feb 17, 2014
Photo of Ryanm1
Ryanm1 from Pennsylvania

3.5/5  rDev -7.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Pours from the bottle to a darker
Golden color. Lots of white lacing but could be due to that fact I used a narrow glass. Disappeared quickly. The nose of the beer is hoppy, floral, the bottle describes it as lilacs, white pepper, and Bartlett pears with blueberry honey and roses. Not sure if I get all that but can believe the floral as it is flavorful but dry. Spicy but mild in my opinionCrisp finish slightly hops.

Jan 13, 2014
Photo of vkv822
vkv822 from Oregon

3.39/5  rDev -10.8%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.25 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.25

12oz : tulip

Pours a coppery, golden orange with a thick, foamy off white head.

Herbal, earthy hops blend with a solid, malty, backbone.

Medium body, foamy carbonation.

Fairly standard stuff overall. Tasty, but nothing really intriguing going on.

Oct 10, 2013
Photo of -Andrew-
-Andrew- from Michigan

3.72/5  rDev -2.1%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.75

A: Golden amber with a 2-inch beige head that retains for a while. Lots of bubbles on the bottom of the glass.

S: Very floral, with spicy black pepper notes.

T: Hop bitterness with a lot of florals and some black pepper.

M: Spicy black pepper tingle on the tongue accompanies thick mouthfeel and average carbonation.

O: Good beer. I like the black pepper notes a lot- that's not something I've really tasted in beer before. I really enjoy the spicy tingle in the mouthfeel, and I'd love to try more beers with similar characteristics.

Oct 03, 2013
Photo of LampertLand
LampertLand from Canada (BC)

3.98/5  rDev +4.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

Anderson Valley 'Belks ESB' @ 6.8% , served from a couple of 350 ml bottles purchased for $3

A-pour is a pale gold from the bottle to a clear gold in the glass with a small off white head leaving a streaky lace along the pint glass

S-big floral on the initial smell

T-clean and crisp , malty with a good dose of hops for a dry finish

MF-low/mild carbonation , full bodied , not an overpowering bitersweetness on the palate , seems to linger

Ov-ok/good beer , interesting take on an English style beer

prost LampertLand

Sep 05, 2013
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patre_tim from Thailand

4.27/5  rDev +12.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

A: Copper, virtually no carbonation, small white particles floating all throughout it, 3 fingers of slightly yellowish head.

S: British malts, molassis, grass, apple sauce, dull British hops, grass, dried hay, phenols, yeast.

T: All the qualities mentioned above of an ESB, but includes citrus hops, dull lengthy dull bitter British hop finnish. Light sweetness. Good yeastiness .

M: Medium, bready, somewhat resinous body, low carbonation.

O: A delicious and authentic ESB. Great to see a US company do this so well. I like the additional citrus hoppyness. Makes it slightly American, slightly modern. Would go well with British pub foods.

Jul 19, 2013
Photo of FLima
FLima from Brazil

4.19/5  rDev +10.3%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

Amber orange color with a two finger head with medium retention and leaving some laces. Delicious citric aroma of grapefruit, oranges and slightly toasted malts. Nice bitter and citric taste. Flavor of grapefruit, sweet malt with hints of peppery yeast, earthy hops and burnt italian bread crust. Dry with a long last bitter aftertaste. Light body with perfect carbonation. 6.8% ABV is completely hidden. This Belk's ESB version gave me the impression to be better than the previously named Boont ESB, probably due to the fact this is much fresher. Anyway, not sure I was lucky, but I tasted an excellent beer, flavorful, balanced, quite assertive and pleasant to drink. An American interpretation of an English ESB, and in my opinion, very well done.

Jul 18, 2013
Photo of WyNG
WyNG from Utah

3.76/5  rDev -1.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.75

This beer seemed to be very carbonated, I poured it into a standard pint glass and had to put on the brakes about two-thirds of the way through as the head was getting very tall very quickly. I finished the pour once it calmed down a bit.

Aroma is mellow, you pick up the grains and some hop, but not a lot. This is also the case with the taste; smooth, malty, grainy with a solid bitterness but not a lot of floral or citrus hop character. This is a heavier beer than I expected with significant body.

Jun 25, 2013
Photo of guityler83
guityler83 from Wisconsin

2.98/5  rDev -21.6%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.25 | taste: 2.75 | feel: 2.75 | overall: 3

A: An overy aggresive pour (oops) into an imperial pint glass produced a four finger head that sustained for a minute and laced the glass with a thick coat of off white foam. The beer itself showed a murkey copper / orange color a few shades darker then the half acre logo on the glass.

S: Sweet with toffee, caramel and a hefty toast vibe. Some fruity esters coming through possibly from the yeast and a spicy, earthy hop character that is almost missed with all the malt smells.

T: The big malt character expected from the nose: toffee, caramel with some gram cracker and bread crust. The bitterness is fairy strong with earthy noble hop flavors and lingers on the pallet long after it's been swallowed. A bit of a papery tasting in the middle (oxidation?) and a fruity almost german tasting yeast flavor

M: The bitterness in this drys out the mouth giving a slighty astringant vibe (or from the carmel malts?) Moderate body with moderate carbonation.

O: I'm not a big fan of many ESB's or english beers in general unless they are firkin (cask, real ale, etc). This one was a bit harsh and I think it had an oxidation problem. If that was fixed I might have scored it higher, but for now... meh

Jun 06, 2013
Photo of TMoney2591
TMoney2591 from Illinois

3.78/5  rDev -0.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Served in a Lagunitas mason jar.

One of these days, I'm gonna suggest to one of my linguistics contacts that a paper on Boontling is a good idea... Anyway, this stuff pours a clear golden-amber topped by a finger of cream foam. The nose comprises mild orange zest, buttery caramel, and soft grass (think the lush hills of rolling verdance in the general Northumberland area...yeah...). The taste brings in more of the same, though the grass now clearly overshadows the even-milder-than-before citrus character. The body is a light medium, with a light moderate carbonation and a dry finish. Overall, a solid ESB, one of the better ones coming from the States.

May 30, 2013
Photo of barczar
barczar from Kentucky

3.62/5  rDev -4.7%
look: 3.25 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

Pours a hazy deep coppery brown with a foamy inch and a half cream head that dissipates at a moderate pace, leaving sticky, sparse lacing.

Earthy, minerally notes form the initial aroma. Floral hops surface next, with a slightly toasted, biscuity malt character. There's a touch of fruity sweetness.

Flavor definitely tends toward the bitter side. There's an initial fruity, honey sweetness that turns somewhat resiny, earthy, and bitter mid palate, finishing slightly peppery and minerally. Muted citrus notes emerge late.

Body is moderate and fairly silky, with carbonation a bit low, and slight alcohol warmth.

More bitter than my palate cares for, and the minerally character was overwhelming. Malt flavor was pretty understated.

May 16, 2013
Photo of horshack7
horshack7 from England

3.53/5  rDev -7.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.5

Appearance: Amber in color with a light haze and an off white head around two fingers thick.

Aroma: Grapefruit, piney, tropical fruits, simple syrup. A light dryness from the citrusy hops.

Taste: Tropical fruits in the front with some light bready notes. Wisps of lemon zest, grapefruit with a smooth mouthfeel.

Notes: Very drinkable quite good for a warm day or even a cool night. Cheers.

May 13, 2013
Photo of biboergosum
biboergosum from Canada (AB)

4.03/5  rDev +6.1%
look: 4.25 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

12oz bottle. Now (for how long, I have no idea) called "Belk's ESB", at least as far as the label for this one is concerned, whose antlered-up brown bear depiction might seem more amusing after a few more of these, I'm sure.

This beer pours a clear medium copper amber colour, with two fingers of puffy, bubbly ecru head, which leaves a few swaths of upwardly mobile spectral lace around the glass as it slowly sinks away.

It smells of semi-sweet biscuity, bready malt, a mild drupe fruitiness, spicy, bitter, leafy hops, and a wisp of warming alcohol. The taste is sharply biscuity, grainy caramel malt, earthy yeast, bitter, zingy citrus and pine esters, a late-arriving bready pastry essence, and further spicy herbal hops.

The bubbles are a tad sassy, but agreeably par for the course, the body a decent medium weight, and mostly smooth - all that there biscuit and hop meddling does indeed take its toll. It finishes off-dry, the sweet bready caramel maintaining the chutzpah to deal with the still active old and new world hop phalanx.

A rather enjoyable little experiment, this forcing a West Coast idealism down a traditional English bitter's trusting throat. Anyways, the extra oomph here ensures that this particular ESB doesn't fall prey to the corner cutting prevalent in such offerings of late, from both sides of the Atlantic. Session worthy? Errrr, maybe, but by the third round or so, one might come to disagree, even if the robust flavour seems to indicate otherwise.

Mar 12, 2013
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jkrich from Florida

3.85/5  rDev +1.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poured from an undated 12 oz. bottle: slightly hazy, golden with a foamy white-head that slowly receded leaving thick lacing on the glass.

The aroma is soft and mild fruit with some spicy hops coming through. Overall, somewhat restrained but fresh.

The flavor begins with a satisfying, herbal bitterness before settling into a spicy and fruity finish. The faint hop bitterness coats and lingers on the tongue after every sip. It reminds me of some very good English bitters only with a good American hop kick.

The body is somewhat light with zesty carbonation with a soft, gentle and clean mouthfeel followed by noticeable hop bitterness.

This is a very good, somewhat robust example of the style. Overall, it quite quaffable despite the high ABV.

Dec 22, 2012
Photo of mgironta
mgironta from New Jersey

3.57/5  rDev -6.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

The head poured a finger full of pure white head that dissipated slowly and left some lacing on the glass. The body was a hazy orange color with light carbonation. The brew looked a little more like a wheat beer to me than an ESB. The nose had a bit of malt and some orange notes as well. This definitely didn’t smell like a typical ESB to me. The taste had some bitter and grassy hops followed up with some biscuit and malty sweetness. The nose wasn’t my favorite of the style, but the taste was pretty good. The body was on the thicker side with low carbonation. The finish was relatively quick. This wasn’t the best ESB that I’ve ever had, but I’d have it again. Worth a shot.

Sep 17, 2012
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NuclearDolphin from Minnesota

4.15/5  rDev +9.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poured into a Pint Glass

Appearance - Dark Yellow and mildly hazy and has a decent of carbonation bubbles floating up. It also has lots of lacing along the sides of the glass

Smell - Strong Yeasts (Like freshly baked bread), barley, faint floral hops and a slight malty scent. The yeasts outpower the other scents here, but it is very pleasant to smell and take in.

Taste - Yeasts, faint floral and piney hops, barley and some faint malts. Again, the yeasts are the strongest element here, but man does it taste good!

Mouthfeel - Light bodied and some mild carbonation. This is also a very crisp and refreshing beer to drink, while at the same time you're able to savor it's flavors.

Overall - Complex, it is not. It is, however, a highly drinkable and very tasty beer. It's a beer for any occasion simply because of it's simple yet rich flavor.

Sep 10, 2012
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cyclonece09 from Wisconsin

3.91/5  rDev +2.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poured from a 12 oz bottle into a 14 oz "pint" glass. Pours a nice copper hue with a froffy white head, about 2 fingers. Smells of grain and very light hops, not very pronounced. Tastes of nice grain and hop balance, with earth hop tones dominating in a very tasty combination. Light bodied beer is perfectly carbonated and goes down very smooth. Overall, a very good beer.

Sep 07, 2012
Belk's ESB from Anderson Valley Brewing Company
Beer rating: 85 out of 100 with 545 ratings